U-17 basketball TD maps plan for Olympics
Newly appointed technical director of the national under-17 boys, Wayne Dawkins, will be taking a multifaceted approach to get the island to the 2032 Olympic Games. He has a strategic plan to use Jamaicans' innate abilities, but admits it will be a difficult task, especially with unfavourable conditions on the local basketball scene.
According to Dawkins, he is up for the challenge, which many argue is a slim chance, with Jamaica ranked 108th in the world.
"That natural athleticism and talent that's making Jamaica dominant in track and field, that's the same athleticism that's needed for basketball. The raw material is there, it's just the infrastructure to develop it is not. It's not a question of whether we have the talent, it's now how quickly we put in place that infrastructure to develop it.
"Obviously, we have to identify the talent and begin to develop the talent, including the coaches. We will develop centralised training programmes to get the best players and coaches and bring them together. Also, open up youth sports tourism and start bringing more North American teams at higher levels into Jamaica, to increase the level of competition in our backyard," Dawkins said.
He, however, outlined some of the issues hampering Jamaica's chances of getting to the Olympic Games.
"Obviously, another big aspect of it is fundraising. We need better facilities. We can't train elite talents in basketball outdoors, the surface is not going to allow the type of explosive movements needed; so we need more indoor wooden surfaces (so as to be) playing more frequently," Dawkins said.
"The development of a professional league is very important, because if you look at the rest of the world, it's a place for young talents to compete and develop amongst men, (who are) stronger, faster, smarter players. When we compete globally, we will be better prepared," he said.
"If our skillset gets up to our athleticism, then Jamaica will be a force to reckon with, a problem for anybody and everybody."
His goal also includes going beyond the Olympics, instead, having a healthy basketball community with resources to help support the next generation.
"We want to develop steady streams of professional players and grow our domestic professional league, because that's going to allow us to build up the communities, because now, instead of that talent and the success and the money leaving Jamaica and other countries benefiting from it, it will stay in Jamaica and build more mentors, who will support the raising of the next generation," Dawkins said.
Jamaica Basketball Association (JABA) President Paulton Gordon agrees that Jamaicans are naturally gifted athletically, and said he would support Dawkins by taking whatever step he can to help Jamaica get to the Olympic Games.
"Ultimately, that is the pinnacle of sports, the World Championships and the Olympic Games. We want to ensure that the right people are in place, and we certainly want to participate in identifying the other resources required to reach the pinnacle of their dream," Gordon said.
He said Dawkins' goals are realistic as long as the plans go accordingly.
"If we start now, eight years later or so, we are talking about preparing people who are under 12, 13 and 14 who would probably peak at their mid-20s, so you will have ample time to do that," Gordon stated.